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Government misses petition deadline to respond to retraction of R50m donation to Cuba

A file picture of Members of Chefs with Compassion who delivered a petition to the International Relations and Co-operation Department in Pretoria against a R50 million donation to Cuba. Picture: Supplied

A file picture of Members of Chefs with Compassion who delivered a petition to the International Relations and Co-operation Department in Pretoria against a R50 million donation to Cuba. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 10, 2022

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Betty Moleya

Pretoria - The Department of International Relations and Co-operation has missed the deadline to respond to the demand for the retraction of a R50 million donation to Cuba.

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More than 60 non-profit hunger relief organisations teamed up and petitioned the department to stop the donation.

They gave the department a week to respond to the petition, which was delivered two weeks ago.

The organisations said they had not received any response from the department or any other government entity mentioned in the demands, such as the Department of Social Development and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We have just over 18 000 signatures on our petition and we continue to raise awareness about the hunger crisis in our country as we continue with our daily work of feeding the most vulnerable in our society,” they said yesterday.

The department donated the money to Cuba to alleviate the food security problem posed by sanctions imposed on that country by the US.

In the petition, the coalition said: “Treat hunger as the pandemic it is. Attack the problem at the root by funding an independent commission of action-orientated experts who have the research-based insights into the problems and can work towards implementing solutions to address the hunger pandemic.

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“Your statement in your State of the Nation Address indicates your intention to do so – now take action,” it urged Ramaphosa.

To the Department of Social Development, the coalition said: “Minister Lindiwe Zulu, rise to the

call of thousands of South Africans who have signed the petition and the hundreds of thousands of voiceless hungry people across the country, and take action.

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“Champion the cause of the voiceless and leave a legacy of ensuring that children are not stunted and malnourished, instead of leaving the legacy of childhood malnutrition that will be felt in generations to come.”

The organisations range from community-based soup kitchens to large national organisations, and chefs.

AfriForum has since approached the court to obtain an urgent interdict to prevent the government from paying the donation.

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It approached the court because it was not “satisfied with the response received from the department”.

In the letter to AfriForum, the department had said the allocation was made for the purpose of humanitarian assistance and not to discharge any debt.

“The allocation for humanitarian assistance to Cuba was made after a request in this regard due to the dire economic situation in which that country found itself in; shortage of food, medicine and essential goods, and in view of South Africa’s historic friendship and solidarity with Cuba.”

The Departments of Social Development and International Relations and Co-operation had yet to comment by late yesterday.

Pretoria News

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